• Darn Good Ideas,  Kid's Boston,  Other Places Online

    Loved: pipsticks


    Pipsticks, a subscription for sticker lovers, was begun by a graphic designer who hunted for great stickers for her children and fell down her very own rabbit hole of an idea. She started a company sourcing cool stickers, packing them up, and sending out them to the delight of children everywhere.

    I took an instant liking to this little project, besides the mom-invented part which is super, because the packaging is so cheerful and fun.


    One envelope lasted us several weeks as we parceled out “two sheets” at a time for ferry rides, special treats with babysitters, and quiet time activities. Included in each envelope are a few sheets of paper and a postcard to decorate, an easy addition that is just right for those of us who fling distractions in our bags as we walk out the door and hope for the best.
    The price runs between $13-15 a month, with at least 15 sheets of stickers included every time. For you bargain-hunting-whizzes, I know this is not a total steal. But for a mom who wishes she had stickers on hand much more often and who can never remember which store nearby even sells stickers, (me, me) it’s perfect. 
    I think it would make a fantastic gift to request from loved ones because 1/ Ultimately it adds nothing to the toy pile. 2/ Lux asked over and over “WHO sent us these wonderful stickers??” Such a fun thing to get in the mail regularly and say they came from Grandma and Grandpa or an old friend.
    If you try Pipsticks, and you sign up for a Club or Family membership, enter the code DEAR at checkout and get your first month free. Win.


    Pipsticks sent me two free months of stickers to see if I liked the service, posting about them was my own decision. Hooray.

  • Darn Good Ideas

    Weekend Visualization

    airplantsAirplants at my friend Jennie’s house. Happy Weekend!

    “Try this with your partner: on a warm summer night, sit together in the living room and breath alternately. While you breath in, your spouse breathes out, and vice versa.

    Alternate breathing is better for a relationship than couples therapy.”

    -Sparrow, from the Sun magazine, issue #461


  • Darn Good Ideas,  Things I'm Doing

    Tis the season


    tis the season for banana bread with coconut or chocolate pudding with ancho chili powder.

    tis the season for throwing out old socks with holes in the toes.

    tis the season for risking a smile for stranger.

    tis the season for heating up some water, grabbing a towel, tucking underneath, and taking some deep breaths.

    tis the season for asking your partner for a backrub.

    tis the season for pulling out a calendar, turning to June, and writing in every fun thing that you miss.

    tis the season for asking your best friend from high school what movie she loved lately.

    tis the season for keeping five dollars in your jacket for the next person who asks.

    tis the season to practice your easter egg dyeing skills and then make your grandmother’s egg salad recipe.

    tis the season for deciding that a pint of raspberries isn’t so extravagant after all.

    tis the season for going to the museum and searching for the painting with the most flowers.

    calendar from philadelphia’s omoi zakka shop, who specialize in Japanese imports. 

  • Cooking,  Darn Good Ideas,  Website Reviews

    plated, a review

    My mom is both very generous and very tech savvy. She frequently laments that she does not live closer to help me out more. Thus it was not a shocking surprise but still a super pleasant one when I found a gift for four dinners from plated in my inbox. Mayhaps she had seen a recent Facebook post wherein I basically swore off cooking dinner until Joan was two.


    I immediately clicked onto their site and selected two dinners to be shipped for that Tuesday. Lamb burgers with a greek salad side, and broccoli chicken curry. I specifically picked two things that I wish I cooked with more frequently–lamb and curry.

    Obviously I was immediately smitten with having everything neatly labeled and divided. I think the cooking channel has made us all long for that:


    The only thing either dish needed from my pantry was olive oil, salt and pepper. Both dishes were designed to be prepped in about thirty minutes.

    The whole family really liked both dinners and I particularly liked that the easy recipes taught me a few techniques. For example–the lamb burgers came with directions to quick pickle red onions, mix feta into the mayonnaise, and lightly toast the buns beforehand. All of these were easy things that completely upgraded the dish, things that I typically wouldn’t think to do. I had an aha! moment when I read “Wipe pan clean from burgers. Return to heat and briefly toast buns in the pan.” So simple, yet I never do it.


    I love cookbooks, I read them all the time. I love trying new recipes. But I appreciated the user-friendly aspect of something like this. I think it’s perfect for people who say “I’m terrible at cooking.” Or for a young single guy who wants to cook at home, but has no idea where to start. You could do a couple weeks of this, and go forth feeling like you know what you’re doing and have some serious experience under your belt. For me, it helped me snap out of the “whaaat do I make tonight?” rut that I was knee deep in.

    They ship to a surprising number of places (like, Pennsylvania, Iowa and California!) which makes them a potentially awesome Christmas present.

    And for those of you googling this stuff–there is another service out of New York called Blue Apron. Here’s the skinny on a couple of the differences between these competitors. 1/ The menu for plated changes every week, and you can decide your order up to 24 hrs before it ships. 2/ Blue Apron is $3-5 cheaper per plate, but you do not get to pick the food, you just pick whether it is vegetarian or not. 3/ plated has an optional monthly membership that discounts each plate. Blue Apron is cheaper overall, but requires you to receive a certain amount of dishes each week.

    I’ve still got two more dinners to order–I’m eyeing those potato goat cheese cakes for next week! This isn’t sponsored, just a personal review. BUT do note: if you use a referral code to sign up, you get two free plates!

  • Darn Good Ideas,  Joe & Rachael Projects

    Laundry Day


    Sundays are laundry days around here. Since we’ve been married we’ve done our laundry at a mat. We use one enormous front loading machine for $4.25 a load. Then we spend $2.50 on one big super hot dryer. We keep a small plastic tupperware of Charlie’s Powdered Soap in the bottom of the dirty clothes bag at all times. It’s scentless (Joe likes this) and biodegradable (I like this) and cheap (we both like this). After it’s done we like to dump all the laundry out on our bed and fold it together. Joe prefers that I do not fold his tshirts. I help him flatten them out and pile them all up on top of each other and then he takes over. When we first got married, I barely folded my clothes at all, typically just tumbling them into my drawer in a pile. We iron strictly on a novelty basis, once every two months or so. My clothes always seem to compose 30% of the laundry compared to his 70%. Plus mine are tinier. I feel like I blinked, and suddenly we’re doing FOUR people’s laundry every weekend. Now Joan claims the smallest percentage, but not for long, I promise you.

    In our new apartment the laundry mat is about five blocks away and down a big hill. Our dirty clothes bag is basically the size of me and I can barely carry it when full. After my third trimester of pregnancy with Joan began, Joe started making it an outing and often takes Lux along with him to do it. I realize this makes me very lucky as homemaking wives go.

    Occasionally we fantasize about opening a laundry mat. I’m not kidding. We’re attracted to this idea because the laundry mats in our neighborhoods are dumps. There is nothing that flags my eye quicker than something that could be SO much better. I mean, people spend time in these places all day long, and they barely vacuum it. They punish you for having to be there. And they punish their employees, who seem to work seven days a week, all day every day.

    It would have a wall of magazines for you to read while you waited. There would be shelves of board games to borrow and play with your friends. A small espresso bar with just enough counter space for you to stand and finish your espresso. Maybe an old fashioned Internet cafe desk, with two computers to be rented by the minute (big throwback to studying abroad, hey oh). A juke box. A nice collection of vintage postcards to purchase and mail. You know, the good things. You get could your laundry done…and oh, enjoy yourself too.
  • Baby,  Darn Good Ideas,  Other Places Online,  Website Reviews

    oh life

    Because each day of My First Week is uniquely woven with its own challenges, such as:

    • go outside
    • go outside and go to the pediatrician
    • go outside, get caught in rainstorm, find out Joan hates rainstorms
    • drive to the midwife and gently rear-end someone and resolve that midst newborn screams
    • go the grocery store with one in the cart and one in the sling
    • (and it’s only Wednesday!)

    …I’ve been trying to jot down daily life notes more frequently. Of course this is the same goal I’ve had for awhile, and to that end I’ve used this easy set-up offered by Oh Life since last year:


    Nice notes, but tragically widely interspersed, right? Once you sign up, Oh Life emails you at the end of every day and asks “How’d your day go?” Just respond to the email and they compile it all for you in a pseudo-journal (skeuomorphism!) style. Despite all our complaining, the internet is still full of great free things, I think.

    It’s decompressing for me too. I find that the wonderful moments bob to the surface of my memory once I’ve written down a few of the more embarrassing and chaotic ones. For example, in the case of the unexpected rainstorm: after we arrived at our friends house totally drenched with Joan screaming, I settled on to their couch and watched Lux learn to cut out hearts and airplanes in sugar cookie dough. Soon it smelled like baking cookies and my sling, Lux’s shorts, and bunny (of course) were spinning in their dryer, and I decided I didn’t need to go to the grocery store that day after all.

    And that’s really all this week adds up to, I think. Feeling embarrassed, exposed, disorganized, messy, and learning to love it or ignore it, as the case might call for.

  • Darn Good Ideas

    Twitter Poet

    I had to go back and take a screenshot of this tweet from last month. I liked it so much, and I want to be able to think of it and see it again.


    Curiously when I first read it and liked it, I didn’t even bother to follow the author on Twitter. Odd, hmm? This just feeds my pet theory that it’s much harder to get followers these days than it was “in the good old days.” (not counting spam bots whom I speedily block)

  • Darn Good Ideas,  Life Story,  Website Reviews

    houseguests strangers

    I posted our apartment to homexchange.com a few months ago, hoping some Romans would want to houseswap with us. No Romans want to, but everyone else does. We’ve received requests from Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Bermuda, Iceland, Spain, Florida….seriously if we had a million frequent flyer miles, I would say yes to all of these offers!

    Nothing has happened yet; except that one time a French family stayed at our apartment over Christmas! Here’s what happened: I eagerly set it up via email, Joe comes home from work, he reminds me we don’t have any plans to go to France, just Italy. Ah yes good point.

    So I say, “Hey why don’t you come after all? We won’t be here anyway. Maybe bring us a bottle of champagne and we’ll call it even.” We had one Skype conversation in which I ascertained that they were perfectly normal people who were not going to auction our belongings on craigslist while we were gone, and the deal was made. And so Bindu and her husband and her little daughter came to stay in Beacon Hill for New Years.

    We cleaned the sheets and tidied the bathroom, set out fresh towels, locked the door, and hid the keys for them. When we returned, the apartment was cleaner than I’d ever seen it in my life, and they left all sorts of surprise gifts for us—duplos for Lux, champagne, red wine, French chocolates. I think they might have ironed our bedspread because it looked brand new.

    Bindu wrote out little notes to explain all the gifts. The most surprising one was the foie gras–I known I’ve eaten this before, but only in the tiniest doses, and never with the fig jam and sweet wine that she recommended. Joe and I have split the jar for two dinners now, alongside a baguette.

    So, I learned 1/ how to be a much better houseguest in the future. Now I want to always leave gifts, especially local treats from where you’re from. 2/ It was pretty neat to know someone was enjoying our stuff while we were away. Bindu wrote that her daughter loved all of Lux’s toys, and they found our apartment warm and comfortable. I thought, “yes, I do too!”

    Would you be brave and let strangers stay in your home?


  • Boston,  Darn Good Ideas

    Social Clubs of Boston

    I’ve been reading this nerdy (trendwatchers wiser than I say that you can’t call things nerdy anymore when you secretly believe they are awesome. Hipster trends have cancelled out self-deprecating comments like that. For the best, I suppose.) fascinating book I picked up at Brattle Book Shop. Most Boston clubs began because there weren’t good dining options at the time. And most of them were men only. Many of them still exist (like the Club of Odd Volumes in Beacon Hill, or the Union Club on Park Street). But you probably wouldn’t notice their clubhouse if you walked past it, or know that it might have been purchased by club members more than a century before.

    You can probably see straight through me: I want a social club of my own. Primarily there would be velvet armchairs, fresh scones, and a big fireplace. We might have charge dues but you also might get to nap like a cat on the rug in the sunshine. You would know you could bring your friends for drinks when they came to town, there would be seats for everyone, and you wouldn’t have to shout over the music or feel guilty if you didn’t order lots of cocktails. In fact there would be a very grand dark wood bar, but members would take turns being the bartender. There would be a letter writers meeting, and many many book groups. Maybe there would be a little terrace to share iced tea. We would have a playwright among our members, and we would perform her plays annually (this is stolen from the Tavern Club, they still do this!). And we would have a very nice emblem monogrammed on all our towels. There would be a knitting meeting where everyone got very drunk. And movie showings, with a full candy bar. Yes, I do think we’d have to charge dues.

    Speaking of classy traditions…I finally learned how to play chess! Maybe an old fox can learn new tricks…maybe I will learn stick-shift one of these days!


  • Darn Good Ideas,  Website Reviews

    Sapphire Preferred

    I promise I’m not getting paid to tell you this. but i should be. It’s about this credit card we’ve had for the past couple months. Chase Sapphire Preferred. We signed up because they have this promotion going: if you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months, they will give you 40,000 points. We’re not very good with frequent flyer miles, points, perks, gold star 4life programs and like, but we thought we’d give it a try.

    So we got a card just in my name, put everything on it and lo: 40,000 bonus points appeared! Most of which I just used to buy flights home for Christmas that would have cost $400!

    Now we’re going to get a card in Joe’s name and do the same thing. Besides the free airplane rides, I thought Chase’s online banking was easy to understand and their online flight booking operation was really nice, like, nicer than some of the airlines’.

    So, if you’re in the market and not dangerously misled by balancing credit card balance and bank account balance (having never had credit cards in our marriage, I was not so good with that and became a little overwhelmed by the idea of owing money!) I recommend checking it out.

    The photo above is a somewhat related, it’s Kate Bingaman Burt’s illustrated and letterpressed bill from her Chase credit card that she eventually payed off.